Gaza needs a peace stimulus
History shows the power of people-to-people contact.
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Leading up to the Good Friday agreements in Northern Ireland in 1998, at least $650 million in mostly government funds was spent over five years to bring Catholics and Protestants together. This people-to-people diplomacy touched at least one-sixth of the population (250,000 people).Skip to next paragraph
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There are nearly 12 million people within the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. To reach roughly the same proportion of people there as in Northern Ireland, let's assume we need to spend at least the same amount per capita. This would be about $5 billion over the course of five years – $1 billion a year.
Why not invest close to that amount in peace – $2 billion a year over the course of five years, just $10 billion for the first phase of a peace-building initiative worth its salt.
For such a "peace stimulus" to succeed:
1. The United States must lead an international campaign to bring together millions of Israelis and Palestinians for sustained people-to-people diplomacy.
2. The Israeli and Palestinian governments must make people-to-people diplomacy a public and vocal priority.
3. Programs need to be flexible. They must provide space for local initiative and local needs.
4. Resources must be devoted to programs that focus on community building, on dialogue within communities – on getting one's own house in order.
5. Programs must be coordinated and sustained: Follow-up is essential. Individual organizations need to work together, to share resources, to have maximum impact. The Alliance For Middle East Peace is taking critical steps in this direction.
First, we have to navigate the geography of conflict: the enforced separation, through military and legal means; the emotional and psychological barriers, just as strong. We urge the international community to construct a chain of secure centers, safe havens, at the separation barriers, where Israelis, Palestinians and internationals can meet safely and interact as equals.
With war raging, with people dying, with pain, anger, and hatred intensifying, world citizens of conscience must take responsibility and realize our power to help transform this conflict.
A well-coordinated people-to-people initiative would do more than perhaps anything to ease the tensions in the greater Middle East and on the world scene.